The Rut and the Art of Breaking Free

It’s raining outside. The afterglow of your box’s latest Whole Life Challenge has waned. The holiday parties are piling up on the calendar. The teeny tanks and little shorts of the summer are tucked away in some drawer to make way for layers and layers of big sweatshirts and baggy pants. In short, the one-way ticket to “Going Off The Rails-ville” is all but punched.

But wait. Don’t fall for it. Don’t fall for it one minute.

When all the chaos is whipping frenetically around you, the last thing you want to do is fall straight into its path. There’s time for festivities and fun and friends, but there’s also time for fitness and discipline and hard work that shouldn’t stop because the calendar says “December.”

Of course, I can say this all now because just a couple of weeks ago, my ticket to “Going Off The Rails-ville” was all but punched.

I very recently found myself feeling lost in the gym. Competition season was, in effect, over. I was exhausted from all the hard work of an eventful summer. A stubborn sick bug left me feeling winded in workouts, like I couldn’t catch my breath. I felt slower, weaker. My PR tally was nonexistent. Nutrition, in turn, wasn’t very dialed in. I got mad at myself. Mad for not being good enough at this, for not PRing that. I’d hit my first real rut of the past year.

But I couldn’t let myself continue like this. I had to find focus again, and for me, that meant coming to a class, getting out of my head, and returning to the root of why I do what I do: because I f–ing love CrossFit. I love the quiet moment before “3, 2, 1, go,” the butterflies, the trepidation, the feel of the bar resting against my shins, the chalk on my hands, the buzz of my friends cheering each other on, the boom of my coach’s voice. I love it all. I love the amazing, little CrossFit moments.

So on this day, I came to class, not to get my ass kicked or to address a weakness or because it was Week 3, Day 4 of whatever cycle of whatever trendy program I had been trying to follow. I came in for my love of CrossFit. And on this day, I left with a smile, a shiny 135-pound clean & jerk PR, and a rekindled sense of purpose.

Annie Thorisdottir posted this on her Instagram recently, and on this day it resonated with me: “Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back… play for her. - Mia Hamm”

So be wary of the rut, stay focused this month and every month, and fall back in love with “the game,” whatever that might be for you. You’ll thank yourself come January.

Strength of body. Strength of heart.

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Coach Today… Be Proud Tomorrow

You know what inspires me? The glint in the eye of a female athlete who shows up a room full of men with her strength. When an athlete with limited range of motion breaks parallel on a squat for the first time and realizes what his body is capable of. Watching an athlete go from average to brilliant on a rower from taking one specialty class and applying everything he learned. The determination on an athlete’s face when they earn that “Rx” with guts and grit and every ounce left in the tank.

I witnessed all of these moments last week and realized how blessed I am to be a part, any part at all, of a person’s evolution into the best athlete they can be. Over the course of my journey as a coach and trainer, I get to know each body that passes through our doors. I get to know goals and limitations, personalities and strengths. Cues that work with an athlete and cues that don’t. When to push them harder and when to back off. When to stack on more weight and when to strip it off the bar.

All these things were not things on my mind when I decided I wanted to coach. But being immersed in the process now, I don’t ever take for granted that it’s a gift to do what I do for a living.  It’s a gift to have knowledge and experience and advice to impart on those who are seeking it and a gift to see those same people come in, work hard day in and day out, and reap the benefits of their efforts. I get front-row seats to that journey, which, on days like last Friday, makes me the luckiest girl in the world.

So I will keep bettering myself, learning, training, reading, and researching, not just for my own benefit, but so I have more to give, more to teach, and more to inspire with. 

Because damn, you all inspire me back.

Strength of body. Strength of heart.

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The Part Between “Before” and “After”

I’ve heard people tell me as they look at my “Before” and “After” photos that I should be proud. And I am proud. But the thing is I’m not proud of the “After,” the body that I live in now, comfortably and happily. I’m proud of all the moments not pictured. I’m proud of overcoming the moments of defeat and persevering through pain and sweat and tears. I’m proud of the “In Between.”

See, it’s easy to sum up a person’s journey in that neat visual package of a “Before” and “After.” This is me at my worst, and this is me at my best. But it doesn’t tell the whole story, and it’s easy to forget about what happens in the middle. And what happens in the middle, and what needs to happen over the course of months or even years, is hard work, drive, and commitment.

I wasn’t always in the right mindset for that, and I think that’s why previous attempts had always failed in the end. There was this inherent fear of the work and a self-doubt so strong that I talked myself into being satisfied with my complacency. I wanted it to be quick and easy. I wanted it to happen “now.”

But as I found the patience and the commitment, the funny thing is that the formula became so simple: Show up for class. Do the workout. Eat clean. Repeat.

So I did. And each time I did, I knew I was closer to my goal, whether it showed up on the scale or my pants size yet or not. I was closer to my goal. I did the work for the day.

So today, I’m posting a photo from January 2013, just three months into my CrossFit journey, a photo that is by no means glamorous or indicative of dramatic change, but instead is a moment within my “In Between” where I remember the gritting of teeth, the digging deep to find the strength, the mental hurdle of taking this most technical of movements, the squat clean, and wrapping my head around its intricacies. There was much to be proud of in this moment, and there is much to be proud of in many little moments.

So dig deep, find the fire to do the work, and embrace the “In Between.”

Strength of body. Strength of heart.

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One Year From Today… Where Will You Be?

I am still riding incredibly high from a 3rd place finish in my division at my most recent competition over the weekend, a finish that means particularly much to me because one year ago today exactly, I joined this crazy thing called CrossFit.

One year ago today, I timidly shuffled toward the back of a strange, mirrorless room, nervously fidgeting in my XL clothes, intimidated by the fit strangers around me, dreading the first words out of my Coach’s mouth, “Ebbtide jog,” because it meant a 500-meter run up a hill that might as well have been Everest to me.

When did I stop being scared? When did I start believing that maybe I could make it through the end of this tunnel alive and maybe a little slimmer, a little happier? I remember when. I remember exactly when.

Running when you’re heavy is never very fun, and every day I came to CrossFit I would dread seeing the words on the whiteboard “Run x meters.” One morning, my heart sank as I realized the workout of the day included 400 meters, five rounds. Immediately, I felt the panic rise inside me. I was ashamed and self-conscious to run in front of people, and I didn’t have the slightest lick of confidence that I would be able to finish this one before the class was up.

As everyone started lining up by the door, I pulled my Coach aside. “Coach, can I please — please — row instead of run?” The tears started to well in my eyes. She asked me if I was injured. I said no. She responded that I’d be running then. “You’re gonna be here for 45 more minutes,” I said, stubborn in my negativity. “Then I’ll be here for 45 minutes,” she said. I shook my head, pissed and exasperated, and went to join the runners by the door.

I don’t remember much about the workout, but I do remember how I felt rounding the corner of that last 200 meters of the day. This time, I couldn’t hold back a teeny tear, especially as I saw my Coach’s beaming face at the finish and a look that said “Don’t ever doubt yourself in my class again.” I made it. Through burning lungs and tired, heavy legs, I made it. And every day after that up through today, I somehow make it. 

So even if you’re scared today, don’t let that fear keep you from taking those steps toward a better, fitter, happier you. Trust in your body’s resilience and, more importantly, the resilience of your mind.

Where will you be a year from now? I hope you’re excited at the possibilities.

Strength of body. Strength of heart.

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The Energy of Competition

The tick of the clock. The pulse of the music. The breath of someone nipping at your heels. In the midst of a brutal workout — the kind where you have no idea how in hell you’re ever going to make it to the end — finding something to give you a second wind is crucial. Never is this more the case than in the competitive arena.

Sense of competition is a big part of CrossFit, and seeking it on a slightly bigger stage was something I’d been setting my sights on for awhile. So I started competing locally this summer as an incentive to step up my training and see how I could perform among similar athletes in the region.

I just returned from my second competition in Lodi, California, and definitely walked away with new goals for myself moving forward. The competition stage puts a spotlight on your weaknesses and turns it on so bright, it’s impossible to ignore! It’s always inspiring to be surrounded by people that are amazing at what they do, and the energy of it all is invigorating to say the least.

No matter what your level of fitness, or what your chosen sport is, finding a way to test your abilities against others is a fantastic way to inject the routine of your everyday workouts with excitement and a sense of focus.

Local CrossFit competitions all over the country are listed constantly at: http://www.rxcompetitions.com/. Many competitions have scaled, masters, or even novice divisions in addition to Rx. Maybe your box has its own competitions — if not, try to organize one. Anything to turn that edge on.

As for me, I will be working on my 5k — running is forever one of my weaknesses! — and working my way towards heavier Olympic lifts (gotta keep up with the big girls!). Quick turnaround on this one — next competition is this Saturday!

Strength of body. Strength of heart.

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My Story

If anyone on the planet has been in a lifelong battle — no, war — with her body, it’s been me.

I was never comfortable in my skin, whether it was at 107 pounds as a young aspiring dancer or at 190 pounds as a domesticated 20-something living in sleepy Marin County. The time it took to go from one to the other is still a blur to me, but somehow I woke up one day at 27 and realized that I had no idea who I was anymore.

I had lost contact with all my friends who had no clue I had gotten this heavy. I didn’t make a peep on Facebook so as not to draw attention to myself or any photos that could surface of me. I had spent so much time in denial that anything was wrong, the world had passed me by.

So one day I scraped myself off the proverbial floor and decided to make some changes. They were subtle at first. Spending some time at the gym, reading Shape magazine, logging my food. I was miserable. I had this stubborn mentality that to make progress I had to restrict and suffer, restrict and suffer. Logging food became counting calories. Gym sessions became slow hour-long slogs on the elliptical. Weight came off but at a mind-numbing pace. I still wasn’t comfortable. Fitness held no joy for me whatsoever.

I tried a lot of things, some of which worked better than others. Personal trainers, boot camp, body sculpting classes, spinning, yoga. Some people were born to be soccer players or marathon runners. I didn’t have an athletic background, except for dancing. Nothing felt like it was “mine.”

Until the first time I picked up a barbell. Fate had led me to CrossFit Sausalito, the final destination on my list of places that I desperately hoped would give my body a chance at finding peace. I found it. All the body awareness, technique analysis, and discipline I had developed in my dancing years transferred beautifully to a different kind of dance — one that involved iron and plates and the sound of bars clanking on the ground and the feel of a PR, and another one, and another one.

Pounds? Scale? Jean size? I didn’t care anymore. What I cared about was improving, attacking my weaknesses, getting that 2xBW deadlift, perfecting my clean and jerk, getting my mile run under 12 minutes, then 10, then 8.

I found passion in fitness and never looked back. The aesthetics and body came — first, the face, then the legs, then everything else. But had I not found a way to embrace my strength, embrace my potential, embrace the work, I’d be telling a much different story.

Strength of body. Strength of heart.

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Welcome!

Thank you for visiting the MPerformance fitness blog. Here you will find the musings of a woman on a daily quest to be the strongest, fastest, best version of herself — and to never quit helping others do the same.

If I pause and think about it hard enough — of where I’ve come from and what I’ve accomplished — part of me wants to cry. Cry for the moments of shame and despair in my old body. Cry for the moments of triumph — the sweet, sweet triumphs of today.

Maybe that’s why I rarely look back, because I have nothing but hope now, not only for myself but in every human being’s capacity for change. So much is possible if we just commit to the journey, to the hard work involved, to finding joy and passion in our fitness and our health. The absolute truth is: It’s damn worth it.

Strength of body. Strength of heart.

♥, Meghan

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